‘Smoke and mirrors’: the true picture for British farming prospects distorted as electioneering intensifies
As ministers trumpet the great export potential of British produce, official records are hard to come by. The link to the November Commons EFRA debate does not open and the publication link [below] also does not respond:
The outlook is bleak for British farmers who don’t have the largest holdings, and who produce perishable foods which can’t be stored until prices rise.
However, thanks to the farming press and correspondence from a dairy farmer, some information is available – and significant.
It is reported that the dairy sector is in a desperate state. MPs have been told that farmers are being paid less for milk than the cost of production. Over four hundred milk producers quit the business in 2014, compared with 200 in 2013.
“The situation is getting so serious that in the last nine weeks we’ve passed three individual dairy producers on to the Samaritans because they were in such a desperate state and the full impact isn’t yet being seen.”
A link to the video on FFA’s website has been received; to open this go to http://www.farmersforaction.org/8.html
George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, whose critique of government’s Groceries Code Adjudication process is well worth reading, commented: “This is a horrendous time… We are losing family farming. We have valleys which have had 20 dairy farmers where we have none any more.”
The committee heard that the supply chain needed to be subject to greater scrutiny.
Mr Handley said that the money between the processor and retailer needed to be tracked: “We need to have some honesty and transparency. There is far too much smoke and mirrors. Unless we get proof that global markets are affecting the domestic price then we will continue to blockade”.
Mr Dunn [right] explains: “The question we have been asking is, ‘Where does the money go?’ We might not need to have a higher price, just that we need a fairer share of the market.”
Mr Handley disputed claims that the price cuts were down to global markets, saying: “We find it very suspicious when we are being told that it is [due to] oversupply when 85% of our milk never leaves these shores.”
Christine Tacon, who ran the Co-operative Group’s farming business for 11 years, has been appointed as the first Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA).
The corporate–friendly conditioning of the new adjudicator, Christine Tacon, for the first eighteen years (1982–2000) took place in sales and marketing for corporates, including:
- Mars Confectionery – Milky Way, Savoury Snacks etc,
- the Great British Lottery Company,
- Anchor Foods Ltd (now Fonterra) and in
- studying for an MBA (Cranfield).
Cause for concern – balance sheet rules OK!
In 2003 the Co-operative was one of the biggest dairy farmers in Europe, supplying 30m litres of milk every year. But Ms Tacon – celebrated for ‘forcing out inefficiencies’ (AIC, 2004) – announced that it was impossible to make a profit from milk production, and withdrew from dairy farming altogether.
At her alma mater, flouting co-operative convictions and procedure
Also that year, at the National Agricultural Industries Confederation conference at Cranfield, in tune with the dismal Sean Rickard, without consulting the Co-op membership – which is said to own and control it – she said that the company might have to ‘revisit’ its recent announcement of a ban on all things connected with GM – despite the ‘strong anti views’ of members.
Her belief that further work might be needed on the public’s understanding of the issues brings to mind Enron’s Rebecca Mark ‘educating’ people in India and the current corporate political drive to impose GM crops in this country despite unwavering consumer opposition.
We can only hope for better in her new position.